May 12, 2013 4
“To sacrifice what you are, and to live without belief: that is a fate more terrible than dying.” So declared Joan of Arc. “One life is all we have, and we live it as we believe in living it.” Joan was a martyr, but she was also a revolutionary. No less a hero of the faith was Martin Luther a few centuries later. Offered a pardon from excommunication, torture, and death if he merely recanted his written opinions, he declined and said to his accusers words that have thundered through the ages: “Here I stand. I can do no other.”
Heresies nibbled around the edges of the early Church two thousand years ago. Often they were persuasive enough to some believers that creeds were codified in order to resist error. “What do we believe? Let us keep things fresh in our minds, and write these principles down, that we might meditate on them, and bequeath them, properly, to our children.”
Today most churches have forgotten the creeds. Protestant churches often ignore them. Many churches no longer recite the Lord’s Prayer. There is no vacuum, however: their places have been filled by rituals like Exchanging the Peace. “Peace be with you.” A holy kiss. A three-pat hug. We care, as Christ commended. Programs exist to facilitate, and prove, that caring impulse, for all the world to see.
The impulses that Jesus admonished us to adopt, as His followers – charity, for instance – frequently have been co-opted by governments. It would be wrong to say that the Modern State has been a pickpocket or a thief of our prerogatives and rights and inclinations, however. Contemporary Christians largely have surrendered the traditional tenets of their faith, willingly ceding the role of the church to the state. No “separation” there.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” So declared Satan in John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” Book I, 254-255. “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven” (263).
The Bible predicts that in the End Times, people will call evil good, and good evil. Even the saints – devout churchgoers – will be deceived. Even believers will have “itching ears” ready to listen to perversions of the Truth and excuses for immorality.
In recent days the trial of a Philadelphia abortionist accused by his employees of killing babies after live births, and causing the deaths of some mothers, has trickled through the filters of news media that do not think such atrocities are newsworthy… or blameworthy. He was found guilty, and Planned Parenthood hoped the killing would continue… but in facilities “cleaner” than Philadelphia’s angel of death. A Cleveland man is accused of imprisoning three girls as sex slaves for a decade, inducing abortions by physical abuse. Elsewhere, judges who prevent 15-year-old girls from having aspirin pills or cigarettes in school, ruled that girls of that age, and younger – no age restrictions – can buy “abortion pills” over the counter, with no doctors’ approvals nor parental notifications.
We have been taught that ancient cultures practiced infant sacrifice to appease their gods, and we have been taught to regard those societies as triangulated somewhere in the middle of barbaric, primitive, and deluded. Just so. But what is it about our own culture – Our GDP and economy? wide-screen TVs? iPods? college degrees? sports cars? – that makes us any different?
We sacrifice children, even babies, to the gods of Convenience, of Lust, of Selfishness, of Political Correctness. The older cultures burned babies on flaming pyres, or threw them into volcanoes. We sever babies’ necks and toss them into dumpsters, or let them sift between the culture’s cracks into basement dungeons or for sale to “trafficking” networks.
This, in Christian America. Or what has become – let us be honest, no longer “threatening” to become – Post-Christian America.
How many of us long to return to simpler times? Do we need to be in the shadow of Solomon’s Temple? Is there no substitute for the fire of the First-Century Church? Should we burn with the fervor of biblical reform, as did Martin Luther? Must we sit under “hard preaching,” as Puritans under Jonathan Edwards? Maybe. But some of us would just like to live in a world, again, where a simple “mother’s faith” nurtured us, protected us, guided us. And these scenes were sacred, not ridiculed.
Click: My Mother’s Faith